Editorial: compensation for Soviet damages again tabled

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Photo: Urmas Nemvalts

Talking about damages caused for the occupation, thought go towards human lives being destroyed even as we write this, in Ukraine, due to activities by Kremlin. To mainly Russian-speaking people, vast material damage has been caused and the environment devastated. Regrettably, the powers that be at Kremlin have failed to learn the lessons of history that slaughter of people and destruction of assets comes with a price - potentially to be paid by them and their nation.

Thus, keeping the topic up adds a forward-looking and ethical level to it, not limited to politics. Even if nothing really happens and the half century under occupation goes uncompensated.

On the other hand, one would like to know for what considerations the ministers-level initiative at this very moment – considering the slowness and reluctance to do so before. What are the calculations and how does it fit with the present foreign political framework?

To think that Russian Federation as legal successor to USSR does not care is ignorance. Why has Russia been so scared of references to Tartu Peace Treaty and the Baltic legal continuity in new agreements? As, then, they would have to acknowledge that for half century the USSR occupied the Baltics and logic would dictate that compensating the damages comes up. Well known to all, as to Russians: Germany has paid damages for Nazi actions to certain nations.  

Among the Baltics, Lithuania has been the strongest to voice the damages issue. Estonian governments have opted to think pragmatic. There have been no hopes to ever get compensated, and in practical relations we have focussed on the present and the future while clinging to the legal consistency principle. On the other hand, as early as in 1992 a committee at Riigikogu was tasked to assess the damage. Efficient and active, the committee produced dozens of reports and a «White Book» report in 2005.

Sure, try as we may, not even the University of Tartu treasures have been retrieved from Voronezh, Russia, though promised to be returned by the USSR in Tartu peace treaty. To that backdrop, no serious individual can believe that tomorrow Russian Federation will launch talks with the Baltics on how to pay the potentially billions of euros for damages to human lives, the environment and the economy.

Even so, the foreign political reality of the moment will not mean that our people were not murdered, deported, and the economy and environment not damaged. Awareness of the damage, and creating a legal framework for claiming compensation, is a vital long-term mission – thinking on justice, and dreaming of a better world increasingly peaceable. 

Cartoon: «When will he pay?» «What did they say!?»